Is Dr. Laura's return a reward for racist rant?

OPINION - The treatment of Dr. Laura presents a very telling lesson for those of us who are attempting to understand the nature of white privilege...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is the esteemed radio host who made the wise decision to use the n-word on the air so many times that it would put a gangster rapper to shame. Sure, she had an explanation for using the word so many times, but she also had a dictionary full of words she could have used instead. As a consequence for her infamous tirade, Schlessinger is going to receive the most daunting punishment known to man: She is being sent over to Sirius/XM Satellite in order to take a new job. Yes, that really taught her a lesson.

The “venerable” Dr. Laura, the woman who has no problem insulting the black community at every possible turn, has now been given a multi-year gig on XM Satellite Radio. Terms were not disclosed, but she was able to land the gig faster than you could say, “I don’t care what black people think.” The treatment of Dr. Laura presents a very telling lesson for those of us who are attempting to understand the nature of white privilege. According to the rules of a post-racial society, the expression of hatred toward people of color not only goes without punishment, it is actually rewarded.

Let’s be clear: If Dr. Laura were a black person spewing insults of this nature toward whites, she would find herself in the unemployment line, along with millions of other capable black people. This kind of double standard explains why black unemployment is nearly double that of white Americans, and why the National Association of Black Journalists is forced to constantly fight for the crumbs that people like Dr. Laura leave behind.

Sirius/XM has a great deal of explaining to do, as does the rest of mainstream media. While there are very good black journalists and radio show hosts waiting for their first big break, there is a long list of non-black commentators who have screwed up royally, spit in the faces of their audience, and landed squarely on their feet. Let’s go down the list, shall we?

First, we have Eliot Spitzer, the former Governor of New York. Spitzer spent his career crusading against prostitutes, only to be found paying them to serve him behind the scenes. What was Spitzer’s punishment for such duplicitous, illegal and hypocritical behavior? He gets a major gig on CNN. Years ago, when Rev. Jesse Jackson was found to have had a child outside his marriage, CNN used it’s morality clause to justify firing Jackson. I guess Rev. Jackson would have been better off hanging out with hookers.

Second, we have Don Imus, the man who referred to a group of black female basketball players as “nappy headed hoes.” After his shocking remarks, Imus was immediately snatched off the air, only to return just a few months later. He is now situated nice and cozy on a more conservative network, where terms like “nappy headed hoe” get nothing more than a polite, uncomfortable chuckle.

Then, we should consider the case of Marv Albert, the famous sports broadcaster, who was arrested and charged with forcible sodomy after a woman alleged that he threw her on the bed, bit her back 15 times and forced her to have oral sex with him. Of course, he ended up right back on the air after his case was settled. Albert now gets to pretend that he is as normal as everyone else, and has even had the opportunity to interview President Obama. Had Albert been a black man, he’d probably be behind bars, let alone earning millions of dollars with a major television network — God forbid he be a black man caught dog fighting.

My point is not to say that people can’t make mistakes or that they can’t be given second chances. The point here is that there is clearly a double standard that connects directly to the long held American precept that black people are the perpetual underclass of our society. Insulting black people won’t get you fired from a job, especially if you’ve designated yourself to be conservative.

Additionally, the irreproachable manner by which many on the right spew their hatred toward people of color is a reminder that their norms are merely a continuation of America’s racially-divisive traditions. I am more likely to be fired for writing this article than Bill O’Reilly is to be admonished for stating that he’d didn’t want to go on a “lynching party” against Michelle Obama.

As for Dr. Laura, I am hopeful that she won’t use the n-word again. But in reality, she has no incentive to avoid such language on the air, since she is likely not going to be punished for it. In a country that rewards ugly and racist behavior, those like Dr. Laura, Glenn Beck and others are made to feel right at home. In fact, it’s become the case that attacking black people has become part of their job description.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the initiator of the National Conversation on Race. For more information, please visit>